If anyone doubted that we are living in a revolutionary age, the events of the past few months should have eliminated all the doubts. From the Middle East to North and South America, people are demanding radical change, and are doing their damnedest to drive out their current leaders. Some of them will be content to change leaders; others insist on thoroughgoing revolutionary transformations. That vast insurrection is “the event,” and we must try to understand it that way, not country by country or movement by movement.
Yes, I said “North America.” Or did you not notice that the Tea Party is very much a part of it all? Just ask Nancy Pelosi; she has recently been taught quite a bit about the overthrow of leaders, and the power of mass movements.
While there are enormous differences from one regime to another and from one insurrectionary movement to another, the regimes now fighting for survival and the movements demanding their defeat and defenestration constitute a single coherent phenomenon. If our universities taught real history instead of political ideology in the past tense, more Americans would understand this better. The best place to start is R.R. Palmer’s wonderful two-volume study, The Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1760-1800, written in the 1950s and 60s (the paperback was printed in 1969), in which he chronicles the revolutionary movements that challenged the old regimes in virtually every modern country, from France and the United States to Poland and (yes!) Switzerland. I doubt any of our policy makers have read it, but the good news is that it seems to be still in print. Kudos to the Princeton University Press for that.
Palmer notes that democratic revolutionaries were in contact with one another, learned from each other’s experiences, and planned strategy and tactics accordingly. They managed this both by meeting, and, more commonly, mailing letters, sometimes across the Atlantic Ocean (without the “social media” that get so much credit for contemporary events). They shared a common language featuring words like “liberty,” “freedom,” and “democracy,” and most of them looked to the American Revolution for lessons learned in the struggle against the British Crown.
Faced with a global insurrection, the forces of the old order likewise shared their understanding and their assessments of how to deal with their common threat. Inevitably, they came to believe that they were under assault from a vast conspiracy, which in a way was true, but not in the way they believed. There was certainly an intellectual/political conspiracy (just as the Committees of Correspondence in pre-Revolutionary America), but not, for the most part, the well-organized subversive underground the monarchists imagined.
It is similar today. The Iranian regime clearly believes that its home-grown opponents are directed from outside the country by dark democratic forces in Washington, London and Jerusalem, and you can be sure that by now, the frightened tyrants from Damascus to Caracas (where, for three weeks now, young men and women have been on hunger strike outside the offices of the Organization of American States) are convinced that the usual subjects, whispering in English and Hebrew, are orchestrating the whole thing. They aren’t, although they should be.
The real conspiracies, today as in the 18th century, are among the democrats within the tyrannical regimes, or–little noted so far–in the hands of the tyrants. The Saudis sent help to Mubarak, and lobbied Washington to do the same. Some of this has been reported, and no doubt there is lots more flowing through classified channels. I have no doubt that the Iranians, Syrians and Turks are coordinating strategy and sharing intelligence, as are the members of the terror network. They have two objectives: preserve Islamic regimes they like, and topple their enemies by taking over the insurrection and turning it to carry out their wicked aims.
The vast insurrection is aimed at sitting rulers, but not all the insurrectionaries are fighting for freedom. Indeed, many of them are prepared for martyrdom if they can advance the cause of even more terrible tyrannies, wrapped in the glory of a new caliphate. The demonstrations in Bahrain and Jordan, like the virtual civil war in Yemen, are sponsored by the intelligence arms of the Iranian Islamic Republic, and supported by killers from Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and their proxies. And we have already seen the Egyptian Islamists come front and center to lay claim to the country. Andy McCarthy is appropriately alarmed.